US, Turkey set for negotiations on fate of Kurds

Hugh Fox
January 8, 2019

With the White House facing criticism over President Trump's decision to withdraw US forces from Syria, National Security Adviser John Bolton on Sunday said the drawdown will be conditioned on the defeat of the Islamic State and the safety of Kurdish allies.

While U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said there is now no timetable, President Donald Trump reaffirmed his commitment to withdrawing U.S. troops, though he said "we won't be finally pulled out until ISIS (ISIL) is gone".

Turkey's presidential spokesman called allegations that his country planned to attack the US-allied Kurds in Syria "irrational" and said Turkey was fighting terrorism for national security.

The injuries would be the first known casualties sustained by Western anti-IS coalition forces since President Donald Trump announced in late December his intention to pull out some 2,000 USA troops in Syria, declaring that IS has been defeated.

At the time, Trump had also said that Turkey would step up the fight against the remnants of the Islamic State in Syria, but Bolton said Sunday U.S. troops will eliminate what remains of IS before leaving northeastern Syria. The Americans are said to be concerned that China will use the port to improve its standing in the Middle East and potentially gather intelligence on USA interests.

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Kurdish news outlet Rudaw reported that the British soldiers were hurt in an attack on a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) base in the town of Deir al-Zour, which also left a Kurdish fighter dead.

The abrupt decision surprised US allies and angered his own national security advisers who disagree with the claim of IS's defeat.

Bolton said the US has asked the Kurds to "stand fast now" and refrain from seeking protection from Russian Federation or Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Turkey reportedly demands U.S. air support for any efforts against Daesh in areas along Syria's border with Iraq. As part of his announcement, Trump said the United States had "defeated ISIS" there - a claim that his advisers and political allies have disputed. Indeed, so alarmed are they by this prospect, that the Kurds have requested that Assad send Syrian troops to help protect them from Turkey.

"I think this is the reality setting in that you got to plan this out", said U.S. Sen. In one of its most contentious moves, Washington recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocated the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, provoking a wave of indignation, particularly in the Middle East.

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"The Golan Heights are tremendously important for our security", Netanyahu said during the press conference, adding that Israel "will never leave" the area.

"One can debate the merits and wisdom of the long-term USA presence in north-east Syria", he said, "but certainly the way it was announced and the chaos that followed - with the resignation of [Defence Secretary James] Mattis and [Syria Special Envoy Brett] McGurk - really played to the advantage of the adversaries of the U.S. and the West".

The latest meeting comes amid rebuke over recent comments made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which he said that the USA hoped to stop Turkey from "slaughtering" Kurds in Syria.

Bolton in September had said the USA would remain in Syria as long as Iranians were on the ground there.

The holy site, which is also one of the country's major tourist attraction, is controversial and foreign officials generally avoid meeting in the area.

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